Cicely Fox Smith
The Good Intent - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
They built her in the olden days,
They built her strong, they built her stout,
In Farmer George's golden days
It must have been or thereabout.
They knew no rush or hustle then,
They drove no rivets racing time:
A sort of pleasant bustle then
Filled up the hours from chime to chime.
With care and pains they'd linger on
Each chisel touch and mallet stroke,
And lay a loving finger on
Her curving sides of Devon oak.
As so they worked, and so she grew
From garboard unto gunwale strake,
And if uncommon slow she grew
They built to last and no mistake.
Well, finish her they did at last;
Sparred, rigged and fitted, forth she went,
And out to sea she slid at last -
The ketch of Plymouth,
She went - and Lord! she's going still,
The same old sea beneath her bow,
The same old winds are blowing still,
The same old skies behold her now.
A stout West-country crew she had,
And paid then at the capstan head:
A seasoned skipper too she had,
Whose sons - and grandsons - all are dead.
The coast from north to south she knows,
Its tiny ports and sleepy piers
From Hull to Avenmouth she knows,
She's used them for a hundred years.
The Channel lights they wink at her
(They've done it at her cargoes too):
The friendly stars they blink at her
The way they used to do.
she might have seen,
And curtseyed to the
And many a ding-dong fight have seen,
For those lively days at sea.
The packets in their day were new,
And many a bluff East Indiaman;
She saw them all when they were new,
Since first her sailing days began.
She saw, she waved them on their way,
Trim brig and plunging seventy-four,
And one and all they've gone their way,
Like clouds that pass and are no more.
Frigate and sloop and battleship,
She's seen 'em come, she's seem 'em go,
Red tramp and reeking cattleship
And China clipper winged like snow.
And still her old luck nods to her,
And, be it peace or be it war,
It doesn't make much odds to her -
She's lived in rousing times before.
They might not count as skilled to-day
In her old hull whose lesson's hid:
'God send our shipwrights build to-day
As honest as their granddads did!'
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